Aya's brothers and her sister Ako were junior high school students when it was decided that Aya would move to a school for the physically handicapped.
"There's no hope of Aya recovering from her illness," I told them. "It will only get worse. In a few years,
I think her condition will be such that we won't be able to take our eyes off her. But I will look after her
mostly, so I hope you will plan your futures firmly and take care of your own health."
They listened to me quietly and seriously. Ako, who is just one year younger than Aya, was proud of her hair which reached down to her shoulders. But suddenly she had cut it short a few days later.
"Why did you do that?" I asked her.
"Well," she replied, "I just wanted to change my image."
Observing how her behavior gradually changed after that, I felt that she had decided on her own way of living
or had resolved to do something.
When she shared a room with Aya, they often argued. There seemed to be a sense of rivalry between them over everything. That made me worry. I couldn't understand why they couldn't get along better. But now that Aya has become bedridden after her life in a wheelchair, Ako is acting like her elder sister. She has become her main advisor and gives her a great deal of mental support.
Unlike Aya, she was able to graduate from Higashi High School. Now she is studying at Aichi Prefectural
College of Nursing & Health. She is hoping to work beside Aya in the future.
The elder of Aya's two brothers has grown up as a man who doesn't play any role directly connected with Aya.
But he calls from time to time and says, "Are you all right, Mom? Don't strain yourself."
I say, "Why don't you go and see your sister? That would make her happy."
But he only replies, "Well, I will some time . . . Please tell her I'm doing fine and she should keep at it."
It may be partly because he, too, felt a strong surge of emotion when he see Aya crying the last time he went
to see her.
He has been working as a policeman in Mie Prefecture for almost two years now. He expressed his sympathy for his sister by quietly leaving his postal savings book - in which he had saved money little by little - saying,
"Please use this for Aya."
How will Aya's brothers and sisters get along with their ailing sister when they grow up? Looking back, I
realize that apart from being unable to do enough for Aya, I have rather neglected our other children. I
sometimes hear about families in which people ignore their brothers and sisters. That kind of thing worries
me as I get older.
I have never said that they should plan to help with Aya's care in the future. But it seems that they are
naturally tightening their bonds to look after themselves after I go. That makes me feel very happy.